Good morning from the Major who writes from a dull dark clasping Worcestershire, set into irreparable damp, but clammy and warm thick air, a day to rest. The closeness of the air has not abated in a day, a mugginess, it clings to you, a thin film curdling about you; God, let it pour, wash away this filth.
The Major is a little late on parade this weekend on account of an impromptu evening at the farmers house, drinking ice-cold beer and wolfing down curry. Myself, the good lady and our two boys didn’t make it home, instead crashing out there and lurching into life this morning with me urging the beasts on, flogging them into action with the desperation of a man with a sermon to write.
I have so much I want to say and so little I can. I feel so restful right now though, I am sure once this is written I can close my eyes and sleep and that, friends, is a wonderful feeling.
There has been a lot of fuss in the States about a woman who made a career on the back of a ‘black heritage’ she doesn’t seem to have. This comes on the back of a recent gender issue and folk are most animated, which I cannot understand. Let ’em be and leave the good people alone is my view, it is a good moniker for life in general.
There are some things which are incontrovertible. The colour of your skin is not a choice it is a colour. Ah but Major, I hear you cry, your heritage is more than pigmentation. I agree. So it is not colour that is important but where you come from and who your parents were. Well perhaps, perhaps not, for many people, they don’t feel ‘defined’ by any of these things so rather than pigeon hole based on any criteria at all, I suggest your heritage is a personal matter entirely.
Anyone who takes any view will inevitably have other folk at loggerheads too, which is why imposition is unworkable in such matters. I have observed during the debate some black Africans object to white South Africans describing themselves as African. That seems nonsense, doesn’t it? So is being African about the geographic place of birth? Is it about having black skin? Is it about your parents or grandparents. How do you choose when these things are so intertwined these days? Given that personal choice then comes into it, does it now diminish the importance of the tags placed on people?
The whole subject matter is a pigs mess and frankly, who cares? What on Earth is the difference? Our gene pools are no longer so tightly geographically defined. The consequence of this is that geographic or genealogical heritage becomes irrelevent.
Good thing too. So a white woman wants to represent herself as having a black heritage. Good luck to her, judge her on the job she is doing. I am not sure any of it matters. Like religion, racism in all forms is redundant. Tags merely that, names.
While I am in such treacherous water, I would love to see religion diminish completely. Do I not believe in God then? Well I do not know. Suprised?
As regular readers will know, I cannot truck with nonsense and have a scientific and logical approach to the wonders of life, not that I am a complete philistine. In the wonders of the universe there are unanswered questions of such magnitude that ruling out some sort of God-like existence is impossible. We do not know if time has been infinite but it either was or was not. Either way, it is pretty mind bending and poses opportunities for a God. Likewise, is the universe operating within a defined space, then what is beyond? It is not a magical judgemental being that I can conceive, more a greater power with wider understanding.
We can see light from less than a billion years after the big bang. Soon we will be seeing light from a few hundred million years after the big bang, we are getting closer to that point which seems significant.
I do dislike organised religion though. It is not that I cannot contemplate the place of God, it is that I don’t think he will be that bothered about which days you are permitted to work on and what clothes you have to wear. That our squabbles over such matters result in war is testament to mans stupidity.
Anyway, my mind is wayward and crooked and we have business to attend to at Sandown and York. If that God is up there, if he does care about whether two men should be able to marry (seems unlikely to me given the wonders of the galaxy), perhaps he will raise an effort and help this mothership come in, after all, it seems just as arbitrary.
To the sports.
The weekend before Royal Ascot has all the similarities of the weekend before Cheltenham. Some valiant efforts to put on a few good races aside, all of our stars are wrapped up in cotton and heading to Berkshire.
To complicate matters, a week of good weather has broken and tracks are taking a quick deluge leaving ground that was good to firm, now officially good. It is always dangerous territory, this sudden change in conditions. Tacky, sticky ground after a sudden downpour rides much slower than ordinary good. We are seeing a number of defections already.
Let us start with Sandown.
The Stoute team are firing in winners (9 from their last 28 runners) and Mustaqeem can be backed at 5/1 and should be. The Wood Ditton form looks like it might be significant to me and I thought the follow up at Doncaster was more impressive, he had to go for him, but the horse responded with a professional attitude and I liked it. Western Reserve is a serious danger but this looks a gift to me.
I have a funny old feeling about the second race and am going to back Duelling Dragon at 25/1 to outrun the odds. His Leicester seasonal debut was pretty good and his penultimate run backed up the suggestion that he is a decent beast. OK, you need to put a line through his run last time but I think a bit more rain and he might relish a touch of give in a way that many of his competitors will not.
Waady, Likely and Zahoor Baynoona are three good horses to fight out the Scurry Stakes and I could make a case for any of them. The filly (Zahoor) is interesting and with Moore booked, you know she will be well presented into the race, she probably is more exposed as a sprinter than the other two.
Waady and Likely are unbeaten over the minimum trip. Waady boasts some proven class and might well have won a listed affair last time if not for a sluggish start. Likely is my tentative tip, on only a second start, this one looks on a steep upwards trajectory and this looks a certain a stepping stone to group class, 5/2 readily available.
The 3.30 sprint is a difficult puzzle and despite a host of reasons not to, my bet is on Salvatore Fury, the ride of Mr Dettori. The horse has not been in form yet this spring, he has a bad draw too and there is a suspicion that 6f suits. Not a tremendous profile then? Well, there are compensations, Dettori is one from one for Dalgleish and the wide draw might suit him as a closer, particularly with pace in the race. His form improved into last summer horse so I am not too worried about the early season performances.16/1 with BetVictor.
Tips for York
The opener is an amateur riders lady handicap and I always think it best to side with jockey quality in these races. Miss Brotherton, Miss Stirling and Miss O’Brien are by far the most competent and mainly experienced of the bunch. Between the three of them, they boast a 18% strike rate, having ridden 256 of the fields 692 rides. The rest of the field boasts just an 8% strike rate from 434 rides.
Having won the race last year, Pearl Castle is set to go off as 9/2 favourite, captained by Miss Brotherton. The horse is 5lbs higher than when winning this last year and it will not be beyond comprehension.
Miss O’Brien is on Ralphy Lad who has been bossing matters on the all-weather and in soft ground. All weather surfaces generally translate well to soft ground and the horses record suggests proper soft is best. From six runs on ground with good in the description, the horse has managed a single place.
Conversely, Barbican relishes good ground (4 wins from 6 appearances) and is available with Miss Stirling to assist at 33/1, some value! I am hoping the uncertainty in the conditions comes down in favour of good drainage and dry weather but at that price, we could easily run a place or better – This looks a cracking bet to me. It is a first run for the stable and jockey combination.
My Lincoln winner, Gabrial, goes in the 3.10 and you would think he needs a properly run race. There seems to be money coming for him (now into 6s) and I am loathed to look for something else. Yet, his win in the Lincoln was off 100 and he looks respectable if not a bargain off 106 based on his last run in a course listed event where he was unable to match the first three. Sure to run a race but vulnerable is my verdict.
Top Notch Tonto could be the answer if the headgear has the desired effect, when (if) the animal comes back to something like his best, he will monster a race like this. One suspects it will be on very soft ground though so I shall swerve again.
Kingsgate Native (not running) made a mockery of his ten-year old condition to run out a winner at Haydock lately. Quite some day for his legion of supporters. Baltic Knight is a relatively sprightly 5 year old but I raise him in the same context only because he strikes me as a long term horse that may be giving best in years to come. He won this a couple of years ago and it might have been the plan this year too, showing a sprinkling of good form last time out. 8/1.
In the 3.45, Scalzo, a Paco Boy colt, laughed at the handicapper at Haydock, showing 77 to be completely wrong. 95 might also be lenient and it is the opposition not the mark which is relevant. Pack Boy is an interesting sire, a G1 winner himself, he has already bred several stakes race winners and group class progeny seem just a matter of time, he might find better broadmares coming his way.
Twilight Son is the daunting opponent. Trained out of the Lambourn operation of Henry Candy, the colt is unbeaten in three races, earning an extra 11lbs to his mark after the last victory. It might seem a bit harsh even though it was a decent Newmarket race and Twilight was moving away at the finish.
On balance, 10/3 for Scalzo, it just feels the more progressive of these two unexposed sorts.
The Martin Hill is an each way trixie using Scalzo, Mustaqeem and Barbican.
May your dinner be taken in magnificent state, accompanied by fine sorts with a whiff of the proper about them. The wine might flow and you can resolve yourself that from tomorrow, you will be a better person.
Courage, roll the dice.